When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic, Time takes on the strain until it breaks; Then all the unattended stress falls in On the mind like an endless, increasing weight. The light in the mind becomes dim. Things you could take in your stride before Now become laborsome events of will. Weariness invades your spirit. Gravity begins falling inside you, Dragging down every bone. The tide you never valued has gone out. And you are marooned on unsure ground. Something within you has closed down; And you cannot push yourself back to life. You have been forced to enter empty time. The desire that drove you has relinquished. There is nothing else to do now but rest And patiently learn to receive the self You have forsaken in the race of days. At first your thinking will darken And sadness take over like listless weather. The flow of unwept tears will frighten you. You have traveled too fast over false ground; Now your soul has come to take you back. Take refuge in your senses, open up To all the small miracles you rushed through. Become inclined to watch the way of rain When it falls slow and free. Imitate the habit of twilight, Taking time to open the well of color That fostered the brightness of day. Draw alongside the silence of stone Until its calmness can claim you. Be excessively gentle with yourself. Stay clear of those vexed in spirit. Learn to linger around someone of ease Who feels they have all the time in the world. Gradually, you will return to yourself, Having learned a new respect for your heart And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
I should have been a philosopher. I think about dying a lot.
A few years ago I thought about it so much I stopped flying. Stopped doing anything risky. My anxiety levels shot up when I heard loud noises.
So I did what anyone these days does when life gets stressful. I went to see a therapist. I learned that most of my fear was related to this anxiety/worry about dying with unfinished business. Would I die with regrets? Would I die without those closest to me knowing how much I love them?
Dealing with the fear has not been that simple, of course. And it is also wrapped up in other traumas from early years that pop up and get mixed into it now and again. But the understanding of, the realization of all this has made coping so much easier.
I listen to podcasts every morning at the gym, and today’s with Kate Manser made me slow down and really listen. Then I flipped to an Atlantic article about Ernest Becker’s The Life and Death of Meaning and found this:
More often though, it’s the hope of symbolic immortality that calms the frightened rabbits of death-fearing hearts—the idea that people are a part of something that will last longer than they do.
Is this what I get from printing? A thought that my work will last longer than I do? I had not thought of this before, but I do love having my grandmother’s paintings on my walls and a stack of my Dad’s letters in my desk. These are comforting, constant reminders of the ancients. I love thinking that my grandchildren or great grandchildren might one day hold a letterpress printed card from me.
The article also addresses one’s world view as part of how we think about death, and it’s fascinating. “Their culture, their country, their family, their work. When thinking of death, people cling more intensely to the institutions they’re a part of, and the worldviews they hold.”
If you look at the problems that currently befall humanity—we can’t get along with each other, we’re pissing on the environment, [there’s] rampant economic instability by virtue of mindless conspicuous consumption—they’re all malignant manifestations of death anxiety running amok.
I know I am lucky, privileged even, to have the time, energy, and resources to spend time thinking about all this. First world problems, right? Yet, to each of us, a problem is a problem. The article ends with this, and I think I”ll ponder it for a while and keep on printing.
“Death destroys a man, but the idea of death saves him,” E.M. Forster once wrote. I don’t know if there’s really any salvation, but if we accept death, maybe we can just live.
Things are finally calming down around here. Mom is happy in her new place, where they are taking such good care of her. I can pop in every day since it’s so close. She doesn’t remember much beyond the present, but isn’t that something all of us could do? Wow, living in the moment. What a concept.
I am printing again, which is so gratifying.
I’ve learned that simply recognizing a feeling, acknowledging it, and moving on is the key to staying relaxed and out of the anxiety zone. I listen to Untangle every morning, where I find ways to stay on the right track (and other good people to follow and learn from).
Snow has arrived. The cold will keep me inside, but that’s not a bad thing.